Book Review: The Butterfly Garden

Hiya friends, welcome back. As promised here is my review of the book that broke my reading slump. (Oh, happy day!)

The butterfly garden

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The Butterfly Garden

Dot Hutchison

Near an isolated mansion lies a beautiful garden.

In this garden grow luscious flowers, shady trees…and a collection of precious “butterflies”—young women who have been kidnapped and intricately tattooed to resemble their namesakes. Overseeing it all is the Gardener, a brutal, twisted man obsessed with capturing and preserving his lovely specimens.

When the garden is discovered, a survivor is brought in for questioning. FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are tasked with piecing together one of the most stomach-churning cases of their careers. But the girl, known only as Maya, proves to be a puzzle herself.

As her story twists and turns, slowly shedding light on life in the Butterfly Garden, Maya reveals old grudges, new saviors, and horrific tales of a man who’d go to any length to hold beauty captive. But the more she shares, the more the agents have to wonder what she’s still hiding…(Amazon)

 

Now my thoughts, which begin quite simply with how interesting I found the plot of this story. I’m a sucker for mystery crime novel, and this one did not disappoint me. When I began reading it took some time to get used to how the author jumped between the present interrogation and the past memories. I immediately felt for the main character Maya, you could just tell she had a rough start at life, and being captured by the Gardener was just the latest terrible thing to happen to her. I will say, there are parts that are not for the faint of heart, it’s extremely creepy at points, and I can definitely see how that would be off putting to certain readers, but I’m a weirdo and I just thought it added another layer to the story. Then, as in typical crime/mystery novel fashion, there was a twist. But WHAT a twist! I didn’t see this one coming at ALL, which just made me like it even more. In honor of the tough women, I give this novel four and a half butterflies.

 

Well, there you have it, my review of this incredible novel. I really hope you take some time and maybe give this book a chance, I don’t think you’ll regret it…and if you do you can blame me.  Until next time…

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The Anxiety Cheat Sheet

Hiya friends, welcome back. I was talking to a friend the other day and she told me that a person she loves has been dealing with some anxiety lately and she wasn’t sure how to help. This obviously gave me the perfect idea of what to write about for Mental Monday.

As I sit here writing this I’m having anxiety issues, complete with a few lovely panic attacks. What better time to write this out? (Side Note: if you’re curious, writing calms my mind and keeps my hands busy, it’s a twofer.) What I’ve decided is people need a cheat sheet of sorts, to help them figure out how to help when someone they love has anxiety.

(Warning – This is a long one, my friends. You might want a snack or at least a drink. What follows is what helps me, and while it might not help every anxious person in your life, I’m sure mixing and matching them can work for some. Strong language may follow, I can’t seem to not cuss/swear/curse when talking about this.)

Ten Things to Know That Will Help You Love Someone with Anxiety

  1. Try to steer clear of phrases like “calm down,” any forms of telling them to relax, or sentences starting with “You just need to…”

As an anxious/panicky person, I can tell you right now, telling me to calm down does the exact fucking opposite. In fact, it brings the anxiety straight to the front of my brain where it beats on the glass and gets really fucking annoying. Telling me to relax pretty much has the same effect, trust me I’d relax if I knew how. Lastly by starting a sentence with “You just need to *insert really helpful idea here*” just makes me realize even more that you are fully witnessing my spiral into chaos. Even in the worst, deepest moments of my anxiety, there is still a little voice screaming from the back telling me to “BREATHE DAMMIT,” we know what we need to do.

  1. When/if they decide to tell you what the hell is going on in their brain, please for the love of all that is good in this world do not make them feel dumb, or weak.

Do you have any idea how much courage it takes to battle your brain every day? How many times it would be easier to let your brain win the war? Instead, you choose to push yourself out of bed every morning, or try to push yourself out of your comfort zone and fight back, that is not weakness. As for the dumb factor, we have called ourselves crazy enough for a lifetime, we don’t want to worry about those we love doing the same. It’s bad enough to know your brain is trying to sabotage everything without having to worry about judgment from someone you love enough to share your issues with.

  1. You don’t need to have all the answers to our problems, whether they are real or imagined.

We don’t even know all the little moving pieces of the shadow that follows us everywhere, we certainly don’t expect you to. I know in my vulnerable moments when I actually express the thoughts swirling in my brain, I’m not looking for someone to make sense of it or analyze it with/for me, I just want to share it with someone because when the thoughts are out in the open the shadow isn’t so scary. Think of it this way, it’s kind of like walking in the woods, if you’re with someone the darkness doesn’t seem so massive.

  1. It’s scary as fuck, for BOTH of us.

The feelings that happen in the height of an anxiety or panic attack scare us, even when we’re used to them. The first time you watch the person you love hyperventilate, or break down in tears, or shake so violently you worry there is something else wrong, is scary. That’s okay. It’s okay to tell us it scared you because then we can tell you it scared us as well. Like I said, being used to them doesn’t make them any less frightening.

  1. Pushing through isn’t always an option.

Sometimes the only thing you can do is curl up on the couch and watch the world move without you. In these moments, we might need your help, not in a physical way but emotionally, sit with us, hold us if we’ll let you. You don’t have to talk because sometimes words aren’t needed, just lend us some strength. It’ll help us find our way through, it gives us an anchor to hold onto until it’s over.

  1. Just because you love us, doesn’t mean you always have to like this part of us.

It’s completely okay to not like our anxiety. It’s a bitch when you plan something for weeks only to have the person you love bail on it because their busy fighting an internal war. Just because we can be overly emotional doesn’t mean we expect you to keep all yours concealed for fear of “triggering” us. If you’re mad, say it. If you’re hurt, say it. I know some won’t agree with me here, but I find it comforting to know I’m not the only one who gets annoyed by my anxiety/panic attacks. They get in the way, they’ve changed us, we know this, and when you admit you know it too we won’t hold it against you.

  1. Anxiety and panic attacks are not one size fits all.

When I’m about to spiral the same collection of things happen, but what happens to me might not be what happens to your person. Anxiety is about as diverse as people are, and it’s wise to remember that. Like I said at the beginning, some of these things might not work for them, but they will work for some. It just takes time, as shitty as that sounds, it takes time and patience to figure out what we need from you…which leads me nicely to the next bit.

  1. Have some patience.

I know this sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how often I have to remind people in my circle of what I’m about to share with you. I fight a battle every single day, I wage war on my brain and sometimes I even come out victorious. I’m used to battling alone, and I’m willing to bet yours is too. Walls go up when you worry about everything, reinforced by those before you who gave up on us because we’re too much. If you want those walls to come down and you want to be let into the inner workings of our anxiety, BE PATIENT! When we finally trust you, and it will happen, we will trust you with everything we have and then some. Don’t make them regret it.

  1. Feel free to do some research.

When I first was diagnosed I researched everything about anxiety and panic attacks. It’s completely normal to want to know more, and it might give you more insight into what’s going on when we can’t fully explain in the moment. Plus, it shows your anxious friend/SO/family member that you care enough to get yourself educated on the topic. Oh, as a side note it also opens a line of communication, which is huge. Once we see you’re taking us seriously, we’ll be more comfortable talking about it with you.

  1. Your support means EVERYTHING!

Support us when we tell you what we need. If they say they need to see a doctor to figure everything out, support them. If you’re at a party or out somewhere and they suddenly need to leave, support them. If they beg you to distract them from the weirdness happening in their brain…well, support doesn’t seem right here but just do it anyway. Trust me, every single anxious person will agree with this one, support is key. When they break through on the other side they’ll know you helped them through and words can’t express what that means. We know how to battle alone because anxiety is extremely isolating, but to have someone on your side makes it easier to keep fighting.

BONUS

Just a little hint as well… Anxiety causes nervous energy, and when that’s focused on bad shit you’ve seen the destruction it can cause. Now imagine if that nervous energy was focused on their feelings for you. See what I’m getting at? We’re fiercely loyal, incredibly protective, and our emotions run deep. While having anxiety or loving someone with it can be a pain most times, it can also be rewarding.

 

There you have it, my cheat sheet. I hope this was helpful to you guys, because honestly writing it was a pain in the ass, but the silver lining is my anxiety seems to have passed. Until next time…

Back from the Brink

Hiya friends, welcome back. So, last Friday I was whining about being in a reading slump, to which I received a wonderful book recommendation. (Side note: I haven’t gotten the book that was recommended yet, but I am planning on getting it this weekend.) That being said, I am happy to report the slump has broken.

I repeat…

THE SLUMP HAS BROKEN!

*insert celebratory dance here*

I had a cheeky midnight browse through Kindle Unlimited on my..well my Kindle (quality writing Nikki), and I found the book that has successfully dragged me from the depths of my despair…

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The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison.

I’m officially half way through, and let me tell you my bookish friends, oh mama it is so good! If you’re into crime/mystery, I highly recommend it. I mean, to be fair, the ending could totally blow it for me but I’m hopeful. Right now, it has just the right combination of what the fuck moments and snarky banter to keep me reading long past my bedtime.

I know this is a super short post, but I have a book to read, people. Stay tuned for a full review next Friday. Next week we’ll finally be back to our regularly scheduled programming, and I can’t wait. Until next time…

Can I get a Ph.D in Procrastination?

Hiya friends, welcome back. I find myself again having to apologize for my absence on Monday, my mother was in the hospital (she’s fine now, and will probably be pissed at me for saying anything) but it is what it is. My mind was a big jumbled mess, I was struggling to get through homework, so I knew writing a blog post was pretty much a lost cause. Well, now that that’s out of the way, shall we jump right in?

So, for school I’ve been doing a shitload of research on an artifact, gearing up to complete a project, and I absolutely hate it. Even through the noise of me banging my head on the desk, my brain did think of all the times I’ve researched things for a story and it never bothered me then.

Researching

Seriously, I’ve researched everything from how to shoe a horse to brain surgery (Grey’s Anatomy taught me many things mostly how much sex could be had inside a hospital, but the proper etiquette for brain surgery was not something Dr. Shepard covered). Through all the research I’ve done for a scene that might take someone 10 minutes to read, I’ve never complained.

BUT…

Ask me to research the Colosseum for a project and watch me whine and procrastinate for hours, if not days.

It’s silly really when I think about it because I’m not too bad at research, it doesn’t take me forever, in fact, I’m certain if I just did it and got it over with it wouldn’t take me much time at all. Also, my interest in the topic has no bearing on my completion of the research either, I mean in all honesty I’m afraid of horses, and would never be close enough to have to shoe one.

Ugh, in short researching for school annoys me.

How do you writers out there feel about the noble pursuit of knowledge for a scene? Share some of your craziest topics of research…I’d love to know I’m not alone. Well, back to the Colosseum I go, until next time….

Oh, the Agony…(yes, I’m being dramatic)

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Hiya friends, welcome back. Do you ever get in a slump with your reading? I am dealing with this right now, and it’s annoying as hell. I swear it feels like school is taking over my life, and by the time I have a spare moment to read I can’t decide what to read, or can’t get into anything. Ugh.

Seriously, during a good reading stint I can devour A LOT of books, but recently I’m struggling to just pick up and finish one. If you’ve been watching my Goodreads page you’ve probably noticed, I haven’t finished a book since Magic Bites. Which well….BITES dude.

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Usually I can drag myself out of the slump by reading a book I love (not gonna lie, it’s usually Harry Potter) but this time it’s not working. I guess what I’m asking is if you guys have any suggestions, whether it be what to read, or how to break this streak. I’m game, my friends, I’ll do anything at this point.

Please. Help me!

Sorry for the short post, but honestly I can’t write about a book until I finish one dammit! Hopefully, this dry spell is broken by next Friday, otherwise, I am screwed here. Until next time….

A Creative Writers Response

Hiya friends, welcome back. During my procrastination today I found this and thought I’d share it with you. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard these statements, so I figured I’d tell you my responses.

 

Creative Writing

  1. My “little” book? If you’re talking about the thing I spend most of my time trying to perfect and get just right, yeah I’m still working on that.
  2. You try creating an entire world in your head, and then tell me it’s not a real fucking job.
  3. Ugh, seriously?!?! Refer to number two!
  4. I don’t write because I have time to kill, I write because if I didn’t I might die. No wait, I write to prevent myself from killing people in real life.
  5. Yes, Mom. Creative writing degrees are a real thing.
  6. I didn’t realize that being published was part of the criteria for being a writer. I thought I had to be a writer to get published, silly me and my creative thinking.
  7. If you keep pissing me off with all these nonsense questions you might be, but I can guarantee you won’t like how it ends. (I have creative ways to kill people off inside the pages of a novel.)
  8. You have a great idea, great! Write your own damn book in your free time, and use all your wonderful ideas. That shit is intellectual property, you don’t give that shit away.
  9. No, the world of professional liars is saved for con men and politicians. I simply see myself as a teller of stories.
  10. What the what?!?! Why would I tell you everything? You can wait and read it when it’s finished, or even better I’ll sign a copy when it’s published. (Do I sound big-headed to say that? Maybe, but hey, sometimes I’m the only one who believes in my “little” book.)

 

That is how I would respond, what about you guys? Have you ever had anyone say any of these to you? How would you respond? I’d love to hear some snark. Until next time…

The Anxious Minds Parley

Hiya friends, welcome back. First off I want to apologize for not posting on Friday, I had a ton of stuff going on and honestly just didn’t have time to write a post. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way let’s get mental. (Terrible pun)

Anxiety is a bitch, if you have anxiety or a panic issue you know how bad it sucks. I am super lucky in the fact that my support system understands my wonky brain now, but it wasn’t always that way. Looking back on the years since my diagnosis there were some rough times when it came to explaining what was happening to me. I searched everywhere for articles and tools to help me convey what I was feeling, and sometimes it still wasn’t enough. My family had trouble with the fact that I wouldn’t go to family parties or be around on holidays, my friends got annoyed with me for bailing on plans or showing up and leaving quickly. In the early days, I would get mad that they felt slighted when I was clearly the one dealing with this shit, but what I’ve come to realize is as hard as it is to have anxiety, it’s even harder to watch someone you care about suffer with it.

For my family, they only saw their loved one go from an outgoing and happy person to someone who couldn’t handle being outside my house. My friends watched me change from the girl who loved to hang out and have fun, to someone who couldn’t bear to be in a crowd. It wasn’t me they were mad at, it was the situation I was in and they couldn’t help. If it was hard for me to come to grips with this, I can only imagine it was equally as hard for them to see.

I was reminded of this fact this weekend when my mom made this comment, “I didn’t invite you because I didn’t know if you’d feel up to it.” My immediate response was anger and frustration toward her for saying something so flippant, but then I remembered, she’s trying to be helpful in the only way she knows how. She has never felt like there was an elephant sitting on her chest as she struggled to breathe. She’s never had to feel like the entire world is spinning so fast and yet you’re not moving. She has never had her brain actively working to sabotage EVERY. SINGLE. THING in her life and she’s powerless to stop it. She doesn’t know how it feels to sit in a room with a doctor and dissect every detail to find the root of the problem. Yet, I am expecting her, and the rest of my family and friends, to understand what’s happening to me as though they have.

I guess what I’m saying is, I ask them to cut me some slack more often than I care to admit, so shouldn’t I give them the same courtesy. In all honesty, I don’t think I wrote this post for anyone other than myself, I need the reminder sometimes.

Well, that’s that my friends. I hope you all had a wonderful weekend, and if you’re a mother, Happy (late) Mother’s Day to you. Until next time….